Can the Kings repeat as Stanley Cup champions? (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
1 Can the Kings repeat as Stanley Cup champions? No one has won the Cup two years in a row since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. In the Kings' favor: The lockout gave them time to recover from the usual Cup hangover, and their roster stayed intact. Not in their favor: They'll open without center Anze Kopitar (sprained knee) and defenseman Willie Mitchell (knee surgery). They were 29th in scoring last season and need more punch on the left side to escape being a No. 8 playoff seed again.
2 How will the Red Wings adjust to life without Nicklas Lidstrom? The NHL should rename the Norris Trophy for the smooth, savvy Swede, who won the award seven times and showed no decline leading up to his retirement. The retirement of forward Tomas Holmstrom, who made a living as an irritant around the net, also will leave a big void. The Red Wings are renowned for staying competitive, but they could have a tough season.
3 Will the Minnesota Wild's $196-million investment in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise pay off? Thanks to the shortened season, the Wild won't have to pay the whole freight on the duo's twin, 13-year, $98-million deals. Still, the Wild is paying a hefty chunk of change for a mid-market team that isn't good enough to challenge for the Cup. Minnesota's power play should improve over last season's 27th, but this was a huge gambit.
4 Where will Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo end up? Luongo was overtaken by teammate Cory Schneider, who finished the Canucks' first-round playoff loss to the Kings. Luongo said after last season he would waive his no-trade clause and was reported to be bound for Toronto, and that deal might happen now that Brian Burke was fired by the Maple Leafs. The Philadelphia Flyers were also said to be interested, but Luongo is signed through the 2020-21 season at a hefty cap hit of $5.333 million per year.
5 Can the Nashville Predators remain competitive after losing Suter to free agency? They've been a model for small-market teams. But Suter's departure for Minnesota was a heavy hit, and to keep Shea Weber they had to match an offer sheet from the Flyers for $110 million over 14 years. The Predators are always feisty, and goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 92.3% of the league-leading 2,153 shots he faced, but nothing will be easy for them this season.